March 19, 2019

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The Carnegie UK Trust is today calling for towns to have more say in UK policy decision making after Brexit following the successful completion of a unique 18-month twinning experiment with six UK towns.

The twinning experiment carried out by the Trust saw three town’s partnerships formed with the goal of encouraging the towns to think differently about what they could do to improve their local communities by learning from others in similar situations. Funding in excess of £10,000 was provided to the towns to put their ideas into practice.

Ensuring towns are considered alongside cities by policymakers will help to contribute to prosperity post-Brexit, the Trust claims.

Jennifer Wallace, Head of Policy at The Carnegie UK Trust, said: “With Brexit looming and policy changes honing in on cities, small towns are in danger of being left behind. Although, the government is making some headway with the Stronger Towns Fund, there has never been a greater need for the use of collaborative and co-operative programmes at grass roots level between towns across the UK. The Twin Towns partnerships prove that such an approach can be successful.”

The partnerships included Broughshane (Northern Ireland) and Wooler (Northumberland), North Shields (North East) and Merthyr Tydfil (Wales) and Whitburn (Scotland) and Ostwaldtwistle (Lancashire), with the towns having been partnered as a result of sharing similar characteristics or challenges, but with different back stories and approaches.

The key learnings included:

Broughshane (Northern Ireland) & Wooler (Northumberland) Broughshane was inspired by Wooler (who already runs its own cycling festival and has established cycle routes) to create the ‘Patrick Pedal’ cycling festival and to form new cycling routes in the area.

Wooler was inspired by Broughshane to improve its digital gateways to boost community and volunteer involvement in the town.

North Shields (North East) & Merthyr Tydfil (Wales) North Shields created the #OneNorthShields brand to better showcase the town’s credentials which is now used by the Chamber as well as many other local businesses.

Merthyr Tydfil created speciality Christmas and vegan markets which generated a 20% increase in shopping centre footfall.

Whitburn (Scotland) & Ostwaldtwistle (Lancashire)


Whitburn and Oswaldtwistle created a joint Facebook group to help increase communications between the two towns, which has resulted in an increase in shared knowledge regarding priorities for the future development of both towns.

The experiment has resulted with a new report by the Carnegie UK Trust highlighting that the opportunities to learn and share ideas between Britain’s towns is even more significant in the context of Brexit.

The Carnegie UK Trust will be exploring other methods of engaging with towns over the next two years to support them practically and to amplify their voice in policy and media discussions.

Carnegie Associate, Pauline Radcliffe, said: “These inspirational place-based communities have demonstrated the positivity, re-visioning and ‘can do’ energy that is created when towns come together to build honest relationships rooted in trust, exchange ideas and ‘hold a mirror up’ to their own town. Despite the challenges facing our high streets, these community organisations are ‘using the strengths and people of their area to do the work that’s needed’ to sustain their communities and tell their story.”